Delta Works

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The Delta Works are a series of constructions built between 1950 and 1997 in the southwest of the Netherlands to protect a large area of land around the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta from the sea. The works consist of dams, sluices, locks, dikes, levies, and storm surge barriers. The aim of the dams, sluices, and storm surge barriers was to shorten the Dutch coastline, thus reducing the number of dikes that had to be raised.

Along with the Zuiderzee Works, they have been declared one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.



The estuaries of the rivers Rhine, Meuse and Scheldt have been subject to many floodings over the centuries. After building the Afsluitdijk, the Dutch started studying the damming of the Rhine-Meuse Delta. Plans were developed for shortening the coastline and turning the estuary into freshwater lakes. By shortening the coastline fewer dikes would have to be reinforced.

Due to indecision and the Second World War, these plans remained studies and little action was taken. In 1950 two small estuary mouths, the Brielse Gat near Brielle and the Botlek near Vlaardingen were dammed. After the North Sea flood of 1953, a commission was installed which had to come up with a plan to research the causes and seek measures to prevent such disasters in future. They revised some of the old plans and came up with the so called "Deltaplan".

The plan consisted of blocking the estuary-mouths of the Oosterschelde, the Haringvliet and the Grevelingen. This reduced the length of the dikes exposed to the sea by approximately 400 miles (640 km). The estuary-mouths of the Nieuwe Waterweg and the Westerschelde were to remain open because of the shipping routes to the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp. The dikes along these waterways were to be heightened and strengthened. The works would be combined with road and waterway infrastructure to stimulate the economy of the province of Zeeland and improve the connection between the port of Rotterdam and Antwerp.

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